Twelve-Year-Old Becomes First Recipient of Burn Survivor Medal
Cleveland - Twelve-year-old Delton Beckman left MetroHealth’s Burn Care Center on January 26, 2021 with the Burn Survivor Medal around his neck. Delton, who lives with his family in Grafton, is the first recipient of the medal, given to pediatric patients who stay for an extended time in the Burn Center.
Delton was at MetroHealth for nine weeks, recovering from second-and third-degree burns on 40% of his body. He was injured at a former friend’s house on November 23, 2020, a few days before Thanksgiving. The other boy, burning plastic covering off the copper wire, retrieved a jug from the garage filled with liquid. He tossed the liquid onto the flames, then threw the jug across the yard and ran in the opposite direction.
A gas tank leaning against the backyard fence exploded. Delton, less than 15 feet away from the tank, started to run. It was only then that he noticed flames surrounding him, his clothes on fire. He wanted to “stop, drop and roll” to put out the flames, but he couldn’t. The back yard was full of scrap metal and car parts. So, he kept running – through the gate to the front yard – and jumped into a ditch.
Delton ended up with burns to his back, right arm and hand, and both legs. The other boy was not hurt.
“My right arm was probably the most painful thing,” Delton said. “They had to cut away so much tissue because the burn went so deep.”
The doctors told him that he’d be in a lot of pain and that he’d have to learn how to walk again – that it would take some time for him to get back to his everyday life. They also told him he would get better.
The doctors were right, Delton said. “One of my dressing changes right after the incident kind of made me woozy at first when I first saw it, but then I’ve just gotten used to it.” The pain has slowly gotten easier to deal with over the last few weeks, he said.
The Burn Center treats both adult and pediatric burn patients, including around 40 pediatric inpatients in a year, ranging from infants to teens. Only a few have burns as severe as Delton’s, said Justin Dvorak, MD, one of Delton’s trauma surgeons.
Delton’s age has been a huge advantage in his recovery, he said.
“With third-degree burns, the more surgeries that are needed, and the higher likelihood that someone may not survive,” Dr. Dvorak said. “He had a total of nine burn and plastic surgeries.”
Delton’s parents, Curtis and Paulette, say their son has always been strong and resilient. That became even more apparent with each surgery he endured; the last one was on January 12, 2021.
“He is a phenomenal kid,” Curtis Beckman said. “To see what he went through ... it amazes me how strong he is.”
Added Paulette Beckman: “I know he’s a strong boy but the past few weeks, I’ve seen above and beyond what I ever imagined.”
Delton’s mental strength and toughness, and the support of his family and the Burn Center staff all have been key factors in his recovery, Dr. Dvorak said.
“We have a dedicated and talented staff here – nurses, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists – all of whom are extremely important to ensure that we function as we should,” Dr. Dvorak said. “Having Child Life, art therapy, spiritual care, social workers and case managers available has contributed significantly to the care Delton received. He’s had a great attitude throughout all of this.”
The goodbyes to the staff in the last few days before going home were filled with emotion.
“Some of them connect to you almost like they want to be a part of your family,” Delton said. “I have quite a few favorites. We kind of lost count.”
Delton is getting physical and rehabilitation therapy at home but will return to MetroHealth’s Main Campus as an outpatient a couple times a week to get his dressing changed. He’ll also undergo more therapy for six months to a year to help regain strength in his right hand and ensure that his scars heal without complications.
He’s looking forward to getting back to school (online classes for now) at Midview Middle School, where he’s in the seventh grade. And when he’s strong enough, he wants to get back on his bike as soon as he can.
Friends have been checking up on Delton to see how he’s doing but they haven’t asked him much about the accident. Now that he’s out of the hospital, Delton says he wants other kids to learn from his experience.
“Things can happen so fast. All it takes is one mistake,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like for my parents and sister if I had passed away.”
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.